February sees the fourth annual 'Neal Cassady Birthday Bash' held at The Mercury Cafe in Cassady's hometown of Denver. This year, Mayor Hancock has designated the first of the month as 'Neal Cassady Day'. Less well-known than other members of the Beat generation, Cassady's only literary work, The First Third, was published posthumously as an unfinished manuscript. However, it was Cassady's spontaneous and free-flowing letter-writing that inspired Kerouac's own style.
As inspiration to Kerouac and muse to Ginsberg, Cassady is described as having boundless energy and a relentless lust for life. His avid pursuit of new experiences as a way of living has been captured in On the Road, in which Kerouac models the character of Dean Moriarty on Cassady. Embodying the soul of the beats, Cassady was fuel and fire to the generation. Sadly, he did not live out the fullness of his potential. Aged 41, he left a party intending to walk fifteen miles to the next town. Found next morning, he had fallen asleep next to rail tracks in the wind and rain, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt. He died in hospital a few hours later.
Neal Cassady's sense of adventure inspired a generation through the works of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ken Kesey. These writers and their works continue to enthuse and enlighten us with their raw nature and vivacity. The Birthday Bash will be a celebration of Cassady's life and contribution to literature. It will involve music, poetry and readings and will be attended by members of the Cassady family.
The world is a different place than the one explored by Cassady. Hitchhiking probably is more dangerous. But remembering the beats is a reminder to not to compromise one's desire and authenticity. The beat spirit lives on in the 'Eternal Children'. Making their world their own through music and fluid creativity, their desire to live freely, vividly and honestly echoes the beats' own desires. 'Neal Cassady Day', as a tribute to the inspiration of the beat generation and its descendents, can serve as a reminder for us to make sure we really are living our lives.